Category Archives: Monthly Roundups

Weird Autumn: September ’20 Roundup

It’s been another busy month, ensconced in grading, teaching, and wading through research! I had to take two days off to sleep the other week, but apart from that I’m holding it together and powering along!

In other good news, my brain is processing image-heavy media like comics again, so I’ve been consuming a lot of good good gay graphic novels.

On the blog:

The Ship of Theseus, Questions of Identity, and Phos – a philosophical rumination on the weirdness of changing identity and personal growth, with some help from Land of the Lustrous and a borrowed metaphor about deep-fried pineapple.

Queer YA Spotlight: Spellhacker – a celebration of the fun sci-fi-fantasy genre blend that’s all about sticking it to the man and saving the world.

On The Conversation:

Night in the Woods: the video game that captures bittersweet millennial life under COVID-19 – I’m back on The Convo, this time contributing to their Art for Trying Times series by sharing my feels about Night in the Woods and its depiction of millennial ennui.

In Writing From Below

Queer Allegory and Queer Actuality in Every Heart a Doorway – my paper on queer portal fantasy is live and free to read! It’s the longer, written-down version of this presentation from last year.

Other fun links:

Well, the live-action Mulan looks abysmal. But why? Let’s break that down with the help of author and Chinese meme historian Xiran Jay Zhao.

Dom is reading the Twilight books for the first time in the year of our lord 2020, with an open heart and open mind. So… are they as bad as they were said to be, back when hating Twilight was as much of a social movement as liking Twilight?

(Yeah. They’re not great)

“Costume blogger shreds movies for their inaccuracy” is a genre unto its own (and that’s fine) but it’s also cool to hear about what films got right about their historical set dressing and costumery. Hooray for Gentleman Jack!

Genderqueerness Beyond Representation in Land of the Lustrous – Matt delves into the trans themes (resonance, you could say) running through the entirety of Lustrous‘ worldbuilding, story, and characters, making it a very queer show in ways that go beyond the characters who might count as non-binary representation.

Reading Romance While Demisexual – how fictional love stories can be alienating and resonant to demi readers in equal measures, and how friends-to-lovers slow-burn is the pinnacle of romance (a sentiment I can agree with).

How Bloom Into You Defies and Reinforces Yuri Tropes – the tangled love story of Yuu and Touko is groundbreaking in some ways, but also extremely tropey in others, and the exciting mix of these conventions is often overlooked in discussion of the series (I’m cited in this! Absolutely wild!)

Among Us Is Not Just the Game of 2020, It’s 2020: The Game – how the multiplayer hidden role game (unintentionally, but perfectly) reflects the emotional state of the year we’re having, but with the added catharsis of knowing the game will end and knowing that there is a chance to defeat the guy trying to sabotage your home.

WIP: Felix Ever AfterFelix is being adapted into a TV show! Author Kacen Callender muses on the journey to this point, and the pragmatic decisions The Biz needs to make when choosing which titles to adapt.

Horns, Scales, and Feathers: Reclaiming Genderqueer Monstrousness – author Tessa Gratton explores her childhood of identifying with monsters and villains, and how this led her down a rocky road to her own gender identity.

The Futura is Now: Why YA Cover Design Looks the Way It Does – an intriguing breakdown of trends in book cover design across the past fifteen years, from stark stock images to unique illustrations, from fancy serif fonts to cleaner, bolder text that will be easy to spot in online stores.

Next month it’s premiere review season again, so I’m going to put my blogging energy into AniFem rather than making longform posts for here. Those will return in November. Stay tuned for some hot fresh opinions and some exciting stories!

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My Next Life as a Lecturer: All Routes Lead to Zoom!! August ’20 Roundup

It’s been a busy month – and that’s “productive and exciting” busy as opposed to “I feel like I’m about to melt because everything is Entirely Too Much” busy, so that’s a plus! I’ve taken up the torch and am running a creative writing course this semester, making my own adjustments to the pre-existing curriculum set out by a mentor of mine. It’s been daunting but also very fun and rewarding so far! Who’d have thought I’d have a great time spreading the joy of books, huh?

The blog is also back to a regular publishing schedule. Given the looming threat of thesis deadlines and the above-mentioned commitments, I may have to duck back into another hiatus before the year is out, but fingers crossed that’s not the case. In any case, enjoy some links – there are a lot of really cool ones in this roundup!

On the blog:

In Which Adulthood is a Construct and Rent-a-Girlfriend is Compelling – this show has me hooked, for better or worse, and seems to have some things to say about the farce that is adulthood and relationships.

Queer YA Spotlight: Felix Ever After – I’ve foregone my “min-reviews” style of post in favour of giving more space to the novels I really want to talk about and draw attention to, starting with this heart-wrenching and heart-warming tale of love, art, and online subterfuge.

On AniFem:

Worldbuilding a Queer Paradise in My Next Life as a Villainess – Catarina Claes has become something of a Disaster Bi icon, and here I explore how the setup of her show makes space for this (even if it isn’t a queer utopia by all standards we might ask for).

Bonus: my Conversation article about uplifting queer YA has been shared around the web (with full credit) and can now be found on international sites like Mamba Online and Charlotte Pride! My dastardly agenda of getting more people to read books that I like it spreading!

Web content for your perusal:

A costume historian on the accuracy of the costumes in Hamilton – and how the show balances historical accuracy just enough to gets it setting and tone across while still being practical, still conveying character, and still looking rad as heck when people are breakdancing in it.

Hbomb returns and unpacks the potential not met in RWBY, from plot to worldbuilding to character to allegory to misuse of its influences, with an emphasis that what it could have been is always just out of reach.

What is An Aesthetic? It’s whatever you want it to be to feel good about how you look, babey.

Promare, BNA, and the Outrage of the Oppressed – someone at Studio Trigger clearly has a hankering to tell a story About Oppression, and they’re going to keep re-trying it with different fantastical metaphors until they get it right. But what would “getting it right” look like, and how do its current ventures get it wrong?

The Path to Publication: Writing the Queer Black Girls of Cinderella is Dead – Kalynn Bayron writes about the publication journey of her new YA fantasy, and the many racist, homophobic, and “it just doesn’t resonate with a mainstream audience” hurdles along the way.

Idle Animations: Denying the Reaper in Red Dead Redemption 2 – a very poetic and melancholy celebration of the way the game allows (and encourages) you to slow down and take in the beauty and peace of the world in a game that’s also about violence and betrayal, and how these lulls also help you, the emotionally invested player, stave off inevitable tragedy.

In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson – the creators of Steven Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power talk about their respective roads to success and the exciting turning point we’re at in terms of queer rep in all sorts of fiction.

“College Republicans”: Why White Male Coming-of-Age Films Should Be the Exception – Leah Johnson expresses a long frustration with the tropes of the award-winning narrative of growing up, which, you guessed it, most often features and centres the experiences of white, straight, well-off cis dudes and presents this as “universal”.

Celebrating Queer Joy Through Stories – Auriane Desombre discusses the inspiration behind her upcoming rom-com debut (including a pivotal moment of Queer Realisation starring The Legend of Korra) and the many layers of queer joy woven through her own story.

Take care everyone, and I’ll see you in the next post!

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The Comfy-Pants Freelance Dance: July ’20 Roundup

Good morning. Life is still weird. But I Produced Plenty of Content this month (hurrah for short term goals, I sing, as my thesis frowns at me from across the room)! Check it out below…

On The Conversation

Queer young adult fiction isn’t all gloomy realism. Here are 5 uplifting books to get you started – want to hear about my thesis topic in 800 words or less, and want some tasty book recommendations? Look no further!

If you’re not familiar, The Convo is a site that aims to make Big Academic Ideas accessible and easily readable (which is very much a sentiment I can agree with). I’ve followed it for a long time so it’s super exciting to get something on there.

I also talked about this on the radio! Skip to 46:35 here and 135:06 here to listen to me saying words with my voice!

On Anime Feminist

I joined the team for premiere reviews this season, and it surely was an adventure!

Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! – Episode 1 – in an introvert’s nightmare, a Manic Pixie Nightmare Gremlin of a girl attempts to improve her classmate’s social life. It was Not Great. But the review is entertaining!

Rent-a-Girlfriend – Episode 1 – Fake Dating shenanigans ensue when a mopey college student hires a sweet lady to be his girlfriend for a few hours, only for the act to extend when they’re mistaken for a real couple by an army of gossiping grandmas. Zany, potentially disastrous, and just a little (well, maybe a lot) horny.

Mr Love: Queen’s Choice – Episode 1 – a fast-paced otome adaptation where all the men are the exact same kind of pretty, and one of them spends the whole episode floating in midair. Not the genre for me, but might be your brand of bonkers if you like superpowers-among-us sci-fi.

Content round the web

Ben G. Thomas’ series introduces, and then dives deep into, the art-and-science hybrid field that is “spec zoo”, which involves the design and study of creatures from alternate pasts or possible evolutionary futures. I hadn’t heard of it before this, but it’s truly fascinating.

Crunchyroll’s Tim Lyu takes a (deep, and pretty comprehensive) dive into the evolution of the magical girl genre over time, mapping the development of the tropes we associate so strongly with it today (this chronology does end on something of a downer, though… surely someone’s making a non-parody, non-gritty magical girl show in the 2020s? Can we bring ’em back?)

The world is a strange and stressful place. Slip away from harsh reality for half an hour and watch this model-maker construct beautiful dioramas featuring lovingly carved sea beasties.

Is Demisexuality Just a Word for “People Who Don’t Do Hookups”? – short answer: no! Long answer: this whole article, which provides a pretty nuanced introduction to the orientation.

Art for Trying Times: How a Philosopher Found Solace Playing Red Dead Redemption 2 – an exploration of the game’s bittersweet melancholy, and its thematic undercurrents about the persistence of memory (see, The Conversation’s great. If you frame it academically, they even let you talk about your Cowboy Feels).

Magical Girls as Metaphor: Why Coded Queer Narratives Still Have Value – much of the conversation around queer fiction can centre on direct representation, but there is still power in narratives that may not be explicit, but resonate with a LGBTQIA+ audience in their themes and structures.

And of course, do read the rest of the premiere reviews! The pickings are a little slim this season, but the team has put out some great work.

That wraps us up for now—take care, everyone!

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May ’20 Roundup (and the “Oh My God I Have So Much Writing to Do” Hiatus)

Emiya Menu (13)

In the words of one of the great commentators of our times, “everything happens so much”. I hate to do it, but between research, thesis writing, Exciting Career Stuff, and, well… [gestures to the world at large] my queue of blog articles has run dry, and I think it’s sensible that I take a break and come back fresh with my brain switched on, rather than trying to fill the space with writing that may not be that good. The plan at current is to take June off and return in July, but we shall see how things pan out. I will, of course, still be saying words into the void over on Twitter.

Stay safe out there, everyone, and take care of yourselves and of each other. I know I sign off with some variation of that every time, but it feels more pressing than ever.

On the blog this month

Fate, a Retelling About Retellings (and Stickin’ It To the System) – a dive into metaphor, magic, and metallurgy starring Fate/Stay Night‘s protagonist Shirou, and how his personal arc spearheads a story about disrupting old patterns and upending harmful traditions.

The Power of Magic and Whimsy in Queer Stories – a musing on the importance of quieter, more personal fantasy tales that let their queer protagonists just be, starring the wonderful Euphoria Kids.

Bonus academia!

Opalised Storytelling: A Review of A Fixed Place: The Long and Short of Story – TEXT reached out to me to review a new collection of poetry and short stories! It’s a little different from what I usually read, but I enjoyed it, and I think I pulled together and made it sound like I knew what I was talking about in the paper.

Bonus announcements!

I’m now officially listed as a contributions editor for AniFem! The site has been an amazing place to work with for the past three years (!) and I’m very much looking forward to being part of the moving wheels behind the scenes.

Web content

Yet another great digital authors’ panel, this one about the blending of magic and queer community in YA fantasy – featuring many books I really want to read!

Dom’s Lost in Adaptation series continues to be a delight, this time providing a charming and thoughtful dive into the 1996 Pride and Prejudice miniseries (with, as always, adequate amounts of costume skits alongside the literary analysis).

Trans Representation in YA Fiction is Changing, But How Much? – stats, author interviews, and personal stories build a picture of the current state of trans rep in young adult novels.

Allegory, Allegorier, Allegoriest: Visual Storytelling and Empathy in Revolutionary Girl Utena – Utena is full of notoriously bizarre spectacle, but the core of the stylistic narrative is empathy and love, and going in/rewatching with that in mind will give you a keener eye for the metaphors at play.

Joan of Arc, for Fascists and Feminists – good ol’ Jeanne d’Arc is one of the most fascinating cases, I think, of a historical character that’s consistently reinterpreted for the needs of the present (from medieval propaganda to 21st century mobile games), and this piece touches on the use of her image for two very different political perspectives.

How The Matrix Universalized a Trans Experience – and Helped Me Accept My Own – a post from last year looking at the trans themes woven into the first Matrix movie, always clear but only more prescient after the directors both came out.

The Rise of Magical Realism in Young Adult Fiction – how the hard-to-classify-but-always-very-cool genre of magical realism is appearing more and more in YA, and why those motifs of liminality and strangeness-yet-familiarity might uniquely suit that demographic.

In Video Game Stories, It’s Often Sidequests That Are the Most Meaningful – those quirky little character-focused missions where you step off the path of your Heroic Destiny to take a pause and help people have a lot of emotional reward, to the player and to the overall story.

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And here, for the first time in absolutely ages, is a podcast rec! You’re Dead To Me is a BBC-run (and crisply British) history show in which a historian and a comedian take a moderated journey together through a specialist topic, sometimes focused on an individual like Eleanor of Aquitaine, sometimes looking at a broader concept like The Ancient Olympics. Very fun and informative, with a nice touch of that Horrible Histories energy (the host is one of their writers, after all).

Everyone stay safe (as always, but with even more gusto than usual) and I’ll see you all in a while!

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404 Witty Title Not Found: April ’20 Roundup

absolutely nothing

So here we are, another month into opening updates and emails with “I hope everyone is doing okay in these strange times…” Do I still hope everyone is doing okay? Of course. Have the times gotten less strange? It’s difficult to say. I’d like to say I’m better anchored in this new social distancing set up: everyone around me is safe and well, some financial worries have been smoothed out (for now at least), and my productivity is back on track after a couple of weeks of an emotion I want to call bluuuuuuuh. I do keep getting into “wait, is it Wednesday?” conversations, but that happened before working from home too, because time is fake, so maybe that’s okay.

It’s raining, and it’s cosy inside. I’m writing words and making things. My cat is doing a really good impression of a loaf of banana bread on the windowsill, and I can hear little “wahoo!” sound effects from downstairs while my partner catches fish in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

On the blog:

Creativity, Discipline, and Eizouken (or: Everyone Needs a Kanamori in Their Life) – a reflection on the creative process (feat. some ruminations on my own PhD) and how important Sitting Down and Doing The Work actually is to it, and why that makes me appreciate Kanamori so much.

Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Heroes, Heartbreak, and Heists (in Space!) – reviews and recommendations of Not Your SidekickThe Disasters, and We Used to Be Friends, all of which made my heart happy.

The Trickster in Popular Culture – Presentation Edition! – the long-overdue recording of a presentation I gave in November 2019, bringing together much of my Trickster research and somehow managing to talk about how cool Villanelle is for a good chunk of an academic paper.

Save a Horse, (Do Not) Ride (This Particular) Cowboy: An Ace Reading of Arthur Morgan – a look at Red Dead 2’s main character through an ace lens, seeing what evidence stacks up, what the themes of the story gain from this, and why all that’s kinda cool.

Webzone:

The Cats movie is wonderful simply because T.S. Eliot, with all his hangups and political ideologies, would have hated it.

The Cats movie is wonderful because it’s ultimately a tale of celebrity hubris, money-grubbing, disrespect for the musical as a medium, and may well herald the end of Oscar-bait musical adaptations.

A panel on aro/ace representation in YA, starring some authors I’ve reviewed and some I’m currently reading, all with great things to say about the complex spectrum of sexuality and identity, what’s considered “queer enough”, and the joys of speculative fiction for escaping and having adventures.

Another digital panel, this one about queer rom-coms – the best and cheesiest tropes, the balance of authenticity and escapist cuteness, and the many intersections of identity that publishing can and should explore.

I think at this point anyone who’s spent any amount of time in The Fan Internet has at least heard whispers of the long-lost legend of MsScribe: the “gold standard of fandom drama”, to quote this very video, and a terrifying and beautifully bonkers encapsulation of early ’00s internet culture. Here the tale is laid out in its (almost) full glory (for the fullest glory, of course, read the original exposé). It’s a whole journey. Do take it with me.

So I know this is last month’s episode, but I only watched it the other day and it’s excellent. Oliver Philosophy Tube Thorn invites us to ask, what is the “purpose” of art? What snares lie in the delicate space between authorial vision and “meeting audience expectations”? And what does fan entitlement look like from someone who’s been on the receiving end of it?

In/Spectre – The Birth of a Modern Ghost – an intriguing look at the myth-making process, and how stories can change, evolve, and “become real” through people’s dedication to them, through the lens of In/Spectre‘s living legend of a final villain.

What We Remake – an examination of what modern remakes keep to remain nostalgic, what they have to change to stay relevant, and the tense space in between. How does a culture of remakes enforce an idea of “the canon”? What makes a good remake? The answer will be a little different depending on who you ask.

30 LGBTQ YA Books You’ll Absolutely Want to Pick Up This Spring– in which Dahlia Adler continues to keep me fed when it comes to publishing info and book recommendations.

Feiwel Series to Put New Faces and Spins on Classics – an announcement of an upcoming series of retellings of classic novels that directly tackles the idea of “universal stories” and the very white, male canon. The series will include a Treasure Island reimagining by C.B. Lee (yeah, I was just talking about her!) set in the South China Sea and featuring some queer adventures and a pirate queen or two; as well as other new takes that sound intriguing.

“We’re Everywhere”: Author L.C. Rosen on Platontic Queer Relationships – L.C. Rosen (who you may notice on the rom-com panel above) writes about the importance of writing queer characters being friends with each other as well as ending up in romances with each other.

And it was a new anime season (again! The horrifying passage of time!!) so be sure to check out the reviews! 

And that wraps us up for April. See you all soon, and take care!

Oh! And a massive thank you, too, to the couple of people who dropped a tip into my coffee account last month. I appreciate the hell out of it, and you, and everyone who comes back and consistently reads this little corner of the internet.

 

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Strange Times: March ’20 Roundup

villanelle bein silly

So… bit of an odd era to be living in, isn’t it?

I don’t have too much to report, really, save to assure everyone that I’m safe and well (albeit a bit frustrated… as someone living in a bushfire-affected area, I kind of find myself asking “hey, didn’t we just have a weird tense month where we had to stay inside all the time, constantly check the news, and exist in a weird limbo state of worry?”). I hope everyone reading this is doing the same, and doing what they can to take care of each other.

My household’s gone through some financial changes due the pandemic’s effects on the workforce, and while it’s not too serious right now, I figure it’s as good a time as any to throw up a link to my Ko-Fi page. If you enjoy what I do here, and you can toss me even a small coin, it means the world. I’m going to keep on writing about writing, and hopefully that brings at least a little bit of respite for someone in these weird times ~

On the blog:

A Little Bit Genghis Khan: The Enemies as Lovers Appeal of Killing Eve – in which Eve and Villanelle’s tangled up, sexual-tension-filled tale gives us the good old enemies-to-lovers in an original story, whereas this trope is most often found in fan spaces.

I Can’t Believe I Care This Much About Marvel Again (A Review of Loki: Where Mischief Lies) – in which the queer Loki novel is good, like really good, and I am so bamboozled that I write a whole post about it.

Webzone:

A brief rundown of the evolution of fanfic in the popular consciousness – where did it begin? How has the perception of it shifted over time and with the help of a few vocal authors? And why in the hell are there so many RPFs?

And finally, this bonkers exploration into an “advice” show, which aired on a channel so manly its promotional material is just a montage of bullets firing, motorcycles revving, and water dripping down cleavage. Is this a parody of itself? Were straight bros from the early 2000s okay? Kurtis Conner investigates (content warning for discussions of explosive misogyny, toilet humour, sexual humour, and rampant alcohol consumption). If I had to witness this madness, so do you.

Finding Asexuality in the Archives – an investigation dismissing the dismissive views to asexuality as “the internet orientation” by revealing the history of the identity and movement long before the ‘net even existed.

Escapist Young Adult Novels Offer a Breath of Fresh Air in the Current Political Climate – serious stories that dig deep into contemporary issues are important, but equally valuable are genre stories that provide a happy break from the “compassion fatigue” affecting young people in a turbulent world.

Nothing But Respect for Our New Anime Queen, Eizouken‘s Sayaka Kanamori – Kanamori good: an analysis.

Beyond Cinderella: Exploring Agency Through Domestic Fantasy – a look at lower-stakes fantasy that places its focus not on grand quests and physical power, but keeps its emphasis closer to home and celebrates different kinds of strength in the process.

Coronavirus is Keeping Friends Apart, but Games Like Animal Crossing and D&D are Bringing Them Back Together – in this hell world, at least we have increasingly creative methods of reaching one another online!

Plus, the latest AniFem watchalong is ToraDora! which has been very fun to listen along to.

I know I say this every time, but now it’s more important than ever: take care out there, and take care of each other. I’ll see you guys soon.

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Easy Breezy: February ’20 Roundup

Eizouken (42)

“I have two posts about Eizouken coming up, on two different sites!” I said to myself earlier this month. “Wouldn’t it be funny if they came out back to back?”

Lo and behold…

On the blog:

Keep Your Hands off Eizouken: A Passion Project about Passion Projects – in which I get a bit sappy about the love with which this anime-about-anime celebrates creativity and collaboration.

Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Soccer, Steampunk, and Survival Horror – in which the mini-reviews kick off for 2020, with Highway Bodies, Running with Lions, and Tarnished Are the Stars.

On Anime Feminist

The Gloriously Goofy, Geeky Girls of Keep Your Hands Off Eizkouken! – “this show is good – feminist analysis edition”. In which I dig into exactly what’s so delightful (and a bit subversive) about the antics and aesthetics of the main characters, and how they’re allowed to be cartoony, zany, and passionate.

Enter the Web Zone

Drew Gooden (yeah, the guy of  “road work ahead? Uh, I sure hope it does!” fame – he’s been pretty consistently funny since then, too!) talks the benefits of letting a beloved show end, rather than stretching it out until it’s no longer recognisable as the show you thought you wanted to watch forever.

The story of Jo March and her sisters is one of many classics that we keep returning to, and this video looks at the major film adaptations to see what new spins we’ve put on the narrative in each era.

Reclaiming the Witch Through Magical Girls– the cute witch is almost a ubiquitous character/trope/aesthetic, but this wasn’t always the case, and its resurgence and reframing across media history is something to talk about.

Season of the Witch: The Rise of Queer Magic in YA SFF – continuing with our (unexpected, but I’ll roll with it) theme of modern witchy media, this piece looks at the recurring theme of magical queer characters in YA… and how exciting it is that there’s now so much queer YA that we can identify trends within it!

The New Wave of Fantasy: How Millennial Authors are Changing the Genre – interviews with four young fantasy authors (Tori Adeyemi, Ryan La Sala, Adalyn Grace, and Hafsah Faizal) currently making a splash by bringing their own diverse spin to it.

Yuri is For Everyone: An Analysis of Yuri Demographics and Readership – yuri is just made by straight dudes for straight dudes, right? Not right! The Holy Mother of Yuri herself goes through the history of the genre and its authors and publication spaces, mapping its development and proving that yuri really is for everyone.

Tea Leaves and Dog Ears’ A Discovery of Witches recaps – the blogger who so entertained me with their “I read this goofy shit so you don’t have to” recaps and reviews of the Grey novels has returned with some witchy, vampire-y fiction, and I’m looking forward to following along.

Be Gay Do Crimes: The Mystery Story Model of Implicit Queer Storytelling – AniGay returns to dig into the history and process of “hunting for clues”, Poirot style, as a means of finding queer stories where they might not be overtly visible.

How Stars Align Offers a Fresh Narrative Model for LGBTQ+ Characters – an analysis of Yuu’s arc and how it covers their identity with nuance, and moves beyond the traditional focus on bullying, homophibia, and struggle, in favour of a queer narrative that’s allowed to simply exist nested in a greater story.

As a bonus: I’ve recently discovered the soundtrack to SIX, a pop musical about the wives of Henry VIII, and I can’t stop listening to it. Maybe it’s not the most in-depth or accurate thing ever, but goddamn does it have some bops in it (and some great puns – I can’t decide on my favourite, but “live in consort” and “ladies, let’s get in reformation” are solid contenders):

And that’s all for now – take care everyone!

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Summertime Weirdness: January ’20 Roundup

EMAILS after hours

One weekend in early January, my friends and I scheduled tickets to Cats. I wish I could tell you which was more surreal: the dizzying, floaty, uncanny valley CGI depicting sleek furry bodies with conspicuously humanoid faces, hands, and feet (yep, we got the “everyone still has human hands” cut), or the haze of bushfire smoke (blowing in from the fires on the coast and national parks of New South Wales) filling the mall and the orange-tinged sky looming overhead, making it impossible to tell what time of day it was.

We were safe from the devastating fires (and still are, fingers crossed – things seemed to have calmed down overall with changing weather conditions and a lot of hard work) but were feeling their aftereffects billow around us. And, like many locals, we had taken refuge in an air-conditioned building, to take distraction from the stress of everything for a couple of hours… with dancing cats with human hands, who sometimes wore shoes and looked way more naked than if they’d been wearing nothing at all. How’d they manage that? Why was Rebel Wilson’s character like that? Why did Judi Dench stare directly into my soul in the final song?? Who was I before this film??

It would be poetic to say that this nightmarish weirdness, survived and shared with friends and loved ones, has set the tone for 2020, but the truth is I really hope things improve. The weather and the stories have been better since, so as always I’m surging forward with optimism.

On the blog:

A Big Ol’ Pile of Book Recommendations (2019) – my favourite things I read last year, through manga, novels, and nonfiction!

A Big Ol’ Pile of Anime Recommendations (2019) – my favourite series I watched last year, through fantasy, coming-of-age stories, and rom-coms!

Cool web content:

A conversation about video game literacy, and how we learn the quirks and instincts of games – and how something that seems so natural to people with a lot of practice can be as baffling as, well, learning a new form of literacy (a study I find particularly funny given that I’ve recently started trying to play Skyrim and have a lot of the same grievances as the new player in this video. But I’m having fun and learning!!).

My fam and I recently watched the new Netflix/BBC “adaptation” of Dracula, penned by our very favourite screen team Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss. It was certainly an experience, and it was certainly time to rewatch one of our favourite video essays afterwards.

The New Little Women Makes Space for Jo’s Queerness – the release of a new adaptation of the iconic novel has introduced me to approximately 150 years of shipping discourse, and, most interesting among it, many readers who hold the idea of Jo March Not Being Heterosexual close to their heart. This article covers nicely how the movie’s tweaking of the original ending leaves room for that interpretation to flourish, and pays homage to Louisa May Alcott along the way.

Hoshiai no Sora/Stars Align: A Story About Corporate Betrayal, but Also a Lot More – a rundown of what exactly happened with the production of Stars Align, as well as a celebration of the series’ many strengths and unique efforts in terms of storytelling and animation.

“Why would I close the door to a queer person?” LGBTQ Fantasy Comes of Age – a great piece about the increasing rise of queer speculative fiction (particularly fiction that imagines worlds where being queer Just Isn’t a Big Deal), with interviews from authors who are part of the movement.

How Eizouken Embraces the Messy Thrill of Storytelling!Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is all about making art, and this piece looks at the creative process within the creative process and what makes it so authentic and fun. (I’m loving this show, by the way – do expect quite a number of words about it from me soon)

American Dirt is a Problem. So What’s the Solution? – a neat rundown of the conversation surrounding a recent “white lady writes racial stereotypes, earns squillions from publishing industry” controversy, and how it’s a pertinent example of how we should systematically give writers of colour the opportunity to tell their own stories rather than presuming the default “mainstream” audience is white and uninterested.

Disability Tropes to Watch Out For – a thread detailing a lot of the harmful narrative conventions that surround disabled characters, often penned and approved by abled writers.

And of course, once again, it was premiere review season!What are you guys looking forward to watching?

Bonus: this is the new best Twitter account

Take care everyone, in these strange and trying times, and I’ll see you again soon!

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Honk: December ’19 Roundup

goose loose

Here lies the last roundup of the year, which means it’s also the last roundup of the decade! At time of writing, I’m in the exhausted, cheese-filled haze that you get between Christmas and New Year’s, so I won’t turn this into a great introspective piece. But I will say that 2019 was A Lot, as I’m sure it was for a lot of people. It’s been a big year for personal growth and self-confidence, as well as career stuff: I’m now officially A Published Scholar, with two papers out; I travelled to two conferences and presented at both; I’ve been teaching all year; and I restructured (read: wrangled) the creative component of my creative research so it’s much less daunting. I suffered a wee bit of burnout in the middle of the year. I wrote a whole bunch of fiction that I wasn’t supposed to be writing, but was a whole lot of fun (and said to myself, hey, that’s still productive, even if it’s not the project I have real deadlines for…). I read a bunch. I’m going to see Cats this weekend and I’m ready to ring in the new year with friends and loved ones among art and chaos. All in all, it’s been wild, but it’s been good… and really that’s all you can ask for, isn’t it?

On the blog:

Stars Align, a Sincere “Underdog” Story – in which a little anime about an ailing middle school tennis team manages to legitimately tell a heartfelt story of marginalisation and hardship, when other YA-aimed properties can often miss the mark.

The Trickster Archetype in Popular Culture, Part Four: The Trickster is YOU! – these posts are back, this time feat. everyone’s favourite troublemaking waterbird!

Bonus: my favourite posts from 2019

Assassins, Outlaws, and Narratives of Autonomy and Vulnerability 

Bloom Into You (and Me), a Story About How Representation is Important

Headcanons, Queer Readings, and the Art of “Reading Too Much Into Things”

Land of the Lustrous as a Story About Burnout

Love and Also Monsters: The Emotional Priorities of Type-Moon’s Fantasy

Not “Just a Phase”: How Bloom Into You Challenges Common Yuri Tropes

Rewriting the Script: Revue Starlight‘s Rejection of Tragic Queer Tropes

And a shoutout too to all the queer YA mini-reviews, which were fun to write and hopefully helped someone out there find something that was fun to read, too! There will be more to come!

Cool web content:

You know me, I love some social history – and I’m a bit of a sap, so sometimes you will catch me loving weddings as well. Safiya’s fashion history videos are always well-researched, well-rounded, and very fun, and in this one she returns to the field with a special focus on the evolution of the wedding dress from the 1890s to the 1980s (what we learn: time is a circle, clothes can tell us so much about the everyday life of a past era, and wigs are a powerful ally).

As 2020 approaches, “x of the decade” articles abound – Polygon’s games of the decade roundup is particularly funny and charming.

“But why is Riverdale‘s writing so cringey?” Why indeed? This user attempts to break down the issues with the show’s bizarre plots, over-the-top dialogue, and the way it sassily acknowledges its own use of cliche while still clinging to them.

The Marvel Juggernaut: With Great Power Comes Zero Responsibility – an exploration of Disney-Marvel’s monstrous, all-consuming presence in the film industry, and how they’re squeezing out creative risk-taking as well as moves towards diversity; using a lot of the conservative choices from Endgame as demonstration.

Steven Universe Future is Doing Something TV Shows Just Don’t Do – a look at how SU’s continuation takes the time to address the messy, personal aftermath of the series’ big conflict and climax, where most other shows – particularly big-stakes sci-fi and fantasy ones – finish after the final battle and wrap things up swiftly (and sometimes haphazardly).

LGBTQIAP YA 2020 Preview: January – June – a handy-dandy roundup of forthcoming queer YA releases! There are so many!! Look forward to seeing mini-reviews of some of these in future, because I’m certainly excited to read them.

The Decade Fandom Went Corporate – how the way fans are seen by big companies has shifted over the past ten years-ish, and how (certain kinds of) fandom is increasingly being monetised.

Round and Round Like Dancing Laundry – Carole & Tuesday – how the space-musical uses its music and lyrics to convey characterisation and emotion, even if those lyrics aren’t the most profound things in the universe.

Carole & Tuesday and Bad Representation – a rundown of aforementioned space-musical’s failings when it comes to queer rep, despite appearing diverse – particularly how it makes its LGBTQ+ characters villains in situations where, in reality, they’re more often victims.

#100 Days of Yuri – a bountiful pile of recommendations from the blog Yuri Mother, collated nicely in one hashtag.

Review: Sexiled! My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out So I Teamed Up With a Mythical Sorceress! – exactly what the title implies, focusing on how the novel uses the “power fantasy” structure of its genre to tackle very real issues, giving it a lot more heart and heft than a lot of “teen boy goes on adventure and gets big sword” light novels.

Anime Feminist’s Top 25 Anime of the Decade – a definitive set of recommendations from the team… and some extra, personal favourites that didn’t quite make the list, too.

And so we roll on into 2020. This year, we’re making art, taking care of each other, and making sure we get enough sleep. Let’s make it happen, gang!

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Papers, Please: November ’19 Roundup

Carole and Tuesday (2)

At the very real risk of repeating myself, it’s been a busy month (I’m feeling a little like Carole in that image up there). But a productive and rewarding one! I failed miserably at my attempt to do a pseudo NaNoWriMo, but I did get all my grading done… finished writing a presentation on Tricksters… travelled to a conference and presented said paper to positive reception… and hey, I had some great conversations about the creative project I’d intended to add to every day, it just didn’t grow as many new words as I wanted it to. But there’s still time. NaNo was definitely invented in a timezone where November isn’t the end-of-year crunch time.

Oh, and I entered something akin to a berserk state and bought far too much manga/YA at a giant bookstore. That’s productive and creative, right?

On the blog:

Personal Space: Carole & Tuesday and the Charm of Quiet, Personal Sci-Fi – a “please watch Carole & Tuesday” post focussing on how the show tells a very personal, grounded story in a futuristic sci-fi setting.

Headcanons, Queer Readings, and the Art of “Reading Too Much Into Things” – a look at the blend of fandom and academia that is the “queer reading”, which could just be a fancy word for a headcanon (and why they’re good!)

In RoundTable

Let’s Talk About Love, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, and the Asexual Coming-of-Age Story – academic publication number two, focusing on ace representation in the media and how these two books break free from the stereotypes and misconceptions that have historically defined depictions of asexuality in pop culture. Extremely proud of my work on this and how it turned out – and it’s free to read online!

Around the web:

Have I finished having thoughts and feelings about Life is Strange? No. In all likelihood I will be 90 and living in my robot body and still be having thoughts and feelings about Life is Strange. So here is a video essay about Life is Strange that explores how the game actually inhabits two different genres and how the different endings uniquely suit each of them.

Nonconforming in the ’90s: How Pokemon‘s Gender Variance Caught the Heart of a Generation – a great in-depth piece from Dee about the diverse gender roles, upending of gender stereotypes, and representation of gender nonconforming characters in the Pokemon anime, and how this was impactful not only personally but culturally.

Queer Eye: We’re In Japan! Gets it Right – a review of the recent Queer Eye special that sees the Fab Five working their reality TV magic in Tokyo, and how it manages to avoid a lot of the orientalist and “weird Japan” stereotypes that American travel shows often fall into (also, highly recommend the series – made me cry like a goof, especially the first and second episodes).

The Middle Ages Have Been Misused by the Far-Right: Here’s Why it’s So Important to Get Medieval History Right – a rundown of some of the ways popular conceptions of “the middle ages” have been misinterpreted, misused, and appropriated for the support of violent and conservative arguments, and why it’s important that people in different disciplines talk to each other so we get our facts straight across the board.

Meet the Activist Debunking Asexual Stereotypes – an interview with aro-ace model Yasmin Benoit that serves as a good roundup of the work she’s been doing to increase visibility and take apart misconceptions.

Who is Allowed to Speak Their Pain? Demon Slayer, Empathy, and Nezuko – a neat articulation of the biggest criticism I’ve seen for this otherwise hyped-up show: its main female character is literally silenced by the narrative, effectively removing her agency and any part she could play in the show’s empathy-focused plot.

In Way of the Househusband, a Former Yakuza Goes Domestic – a review of the very funny and delightful manga, now out in English, with a particular focus on how it gives its scary, badass male protagonist typically feminine interests without making this the butt of the joke.

And now, dear reader, I sleep. Take care and I’ll see you next time!

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